Serbian Epic Poetry
The Miracle of Tsar Lazar
When the Tsar Lazar has been beheaded
On the fair and pleasant field Kossovo,
Not a Serbian warrior beheld it,
But a Turkish boy, a slave, was present,
Born a slave, but of a Serbian mother;
And he speaks thus to the Turkish warriors:
“Woe to me, oh Turks, oh my dear brothers,
For this is the head of a great noble,
And it were a sin ’gainst God Almighty
If the eagles and the ravens pecked it ,
If upon it men and horses trampled.”...
Takes the head then of Lazar the holy
Wraps it in his many-coloured mantle,
Bears it to the waters of a fountain.
There it lay for forty lovely summers,
While the body lay upon Kossovo,
Pecked not by the eagles and the ravens,
Trampled not by horses or by heroes.
Now dear God, all thanks to Thee be given!
On a day there came some youthful teamsters
From the white and pleasant town of Skoplje,
In their waggons they bear Greeks and Bulgars,
They will bring them unto Nish and Vidni,
And they spend the night upon Kossovo.
There together sup the youthful teamsters
And when they have supped they all grow thirsty.
Then amongst themselves they light a lantern,
Light a lantern with its shining candle,
And they seek for water on Kossovo.
By a hazard, chance has led their footsteps
Led their footsteps to the chilly fountain,
And thus speaks one of the youthful teamsters:
“See the moonlight shining in the water.”
Speaks the second of the youthful teamsters:
“It is not the moonlight shining, brothers.”
But the third is silent, no word says he,
And towards the east he turns him straightly
And the one true God he loudly praises,
Praises God and Nicholas the Holy:
“Help me God, and Nicholas be witness!”
Then he wades into the chilly fountain
And he takes the head from out the waters,
Takes the head of Tsar Lazar the holy.
Then he places it upon the green grass,
And he fetches water in a goblet,
And the three young teamsters drink together.
When they looked again upon the black earth
Lo, the head was not upon the green grass,
But it moved along upon Kossovo,
Holy head towards most holy body,
And the two were once more joined together.
When the white day dawned upon the morrow,
Then the youthful teamsters brought the tidings,
Brought the tidings to the holy fathers.
And there came three hundred holy fathers,
And with them there came twelve pious bishops,
And four patriarchs came with the bishops
From Jerusalem the holy city,
And from Petch, and from Constantinople.
They put on their sacerdotal vestments,
They put on their vestments, and their head-dress,
In their hands the Ancient Books they carried,
Solemn prayers upon the plain they chanted,
And they kept unceasing holy vigil—
Three dark nights and three days, kept their vigil.
Never sitting down and never resting,
Never lying down and never sleeping,
Questioned they the Tsar Lazar, the holy,
Unto which foundation they should bear him;
Unto Krushedol or to Apóvo,
Unto Jaska or to Beshenova,
Unto Rakovatz of Shishatovatz,
Unto Kuveždin or unto Djivsha,
Or if he would go to Macedonia:
But to neither would the saint be carried—
He preferred to all his own foundation,
He preferred his splendid Ravanitza
At the foot of the high mountain Kuchaj;
For Lazar built there to God a temple
While he lived and ruled amongst his people,
Built a church for his own soul’s salvation,
Built with his own bread and his own treasure,
Not with tears of widows and of orphans.